Disclaimer. After nearly 40 years managing money for some of the largest life offices and investment managers in the world, I think I have something to offer. These days I'm retired, and I can't by law give you advice. While I do make mistakes, I try hard to do my analysis thoroughly, and to make sure my data are correct (old habits die hard!) Also, don't ask me why I called it "Volewica". It's too late, now.

BTW, clicking on most charts will produce the original-sized, i.e., bigger version.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Exponential growth of solar

This article contains some remarkable data and insights.  The first chart shows data plotted on a linear scale, and you can see the classic growth curve where the lines get steeper and steeper.  The chart below it shows exactly the same data plotted with a log scale.

The conclusion to the article is worth reproducing here:

For the last 14 years, almost a decade and a half, global solar PV production/installation has grown faster than 41% per year (compound annual growth rate, aka CAGR). This means global solar PV production/installation has been more than doubling every two years. (I’m using predictions for 2014, but we are on track.) Predictions for 2015 already suggest a continued high rate of growth. Most predictions going forward beyond 2015 will continue to be of linear growth, as has been the case in the past. This is because humans have a psychological blind spot with respect to exponential growth. I submit this may not be the case at all. Global solar PV growth will eventually flatten out, but don’t bet on this happening in the near future.
If this high growth rate continues for another 8 years, till 2022, then we will be already well on our way to providing most of the world’s power using solar PV.
The next time you ponder the growth rate of solar PV, consider the plots above…. Consider the continuing drop in cost…. Consider the resulting exponential increase in demand. Think about the multi-gigawatt production plans of some of the big solar PV manufactures. Will it really take 50 years for solar PV to provide most of our power?… Or will those plots above continue, so that it will only take 10 to 20 years? Think about it.
[Read the rest of the article here]

Plotting the actual output of solar panels (remember, capacity is not the same as production because of night time, clouds, etc.)  By 2016, on my estimates solar will be just 1.2% of global electricity production.  It seems like nothing, doesn't it?  Reread the italicised section above.  The percentage of electricity produced by solar  has doubled every 2 years for 30 years, and because the cost (and efficiency ) of solar panels continue to improve (costs halving every 3-4 years, a sort of Moore's law for solar panels) the growth rate is likely if anything to accelerate rather than slow down.  By 2020, total solar will be at least 4.3% of global electricity generation, total wind + solar at least 13.3%.  And the annual increase in renewable electricity production will be greater than the annual increase in global electricity demand.  Which means carbon emissions will be falling.  Coal is finished, as are conventional electricity utility models.

[See also Unlimited Cheap Energy]

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